Archive | November, 2010

SkyMall’s Greatest WTFs

30 Nov

In other news, eating Domino's makes you hot.

SkyMall is my favourite part of most plane rides.  It’s like reading 1,000 tiny infomercials, which doesn’t sound fun, but is if you find rubbernecking on the sheer stupidity of post-industrial life fun, as I seem to.  SkyMall is free to take with you out into the real world, so intones an attendant at the end of each flight, just in case you’re tired of sorting through different Hammacher Schlemmer and Sharper Image catalogues in order to find the world’s most exclusive pointless crap to divert your income to.  If you really want to know what banal evil lurks in the heart of the Modern Machine, it’s SkyMall: the most frivolous consumerism imaginable, reduced to sad little sales pitches designed to make peeing statues sound like high art and dog ladders sound indispensable.  SkyMall is what it’s all about people, the resource wars, tax cuts for the wealthy, derivatives speculation, the endless parring down of social services, infrastructure, education, and the arts.  SkyMall is the antithesis of conservation, culture, and taste.  SkyMall is what happens when drugs and sex are either punished or marginalized, and adult humans develop a desire to get their rocks off by purchasing Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville-brand tequila shot chiller ($250) 30,000 feet in the air.  SkyMall is waste porn.  To wit (click on any picture to enlarge):

Hey world's dentists, SkyMall just made you IRRELEVANT.

Stop worrying about your fucked up teeth and just pop these bad boys over your grisly nubs!  No one will be able to tell the difference between real, healthy teeth and these expensive versions of Halloween vampire teeth, which everyone knows are very comfortable and stay in place, like, no problem man.

Also squeezes tear ducts shut.

“Look 15 years younger by holding a prosthetic face over your own! No one will be able to tell!  Murder Talk to pretty girls again!”  Well, not quite, but almost.  At first I thought this ad was for some miracle pills or creams or something.  Turns out, it’s for an “invisible” harness to physically wear around your face.  No one will be able to tell your face is being physically stretched back by a harness around your head.  Swear to god.  And if they do, just play it off all cool: “oh this? what? did you hear about Mary’s oxycontin addiction?”  Feel your best every morning as you tape your skin back in a desperate attempt to be someone else.

Make believe this doesn't cost the same as a new iPhone.

Jesus Christ Jane, with a name that boring you could at least have interesting status updates on Facebook.  And what kind of idiot wants to watch Netflix on this $200 digital picture frame?  Especially when…

With free internet included!**

… there’s this must-be-some-catch MacBook Air rip-off for $250 on the next page!  **Free internet limited to 30 hours per month, which should be just enough to check your AOL and myspace page.

Patented "Italian" design.

Dude, Rodan’s “The Thinker” pose is totally not making that look any less stupid.  And rocking that apparatus on your head after a hard day of male modeling definitely sounds way more fun and relaxing than drugs.

Finally, you can listen to records in your car! What's that you say? No one wants to listen to records in their car? Uh, shhh...

Now I just need to wait for them to make records even slightly portable.  That technology is advancing fast these days, so, shouldn’t take too long.

"After I wake up from this luscious nap I'm totally going to bang one of those air waitresses"

Teal body pillow? Check.  Purple Hawaiian shirt? Check.  Unlike nearly every other product in this catalog, this product appears to be for those who DON’T GIVE A FUCK what they look like.

What TV? Where?

Do anything? Wear anywhere?  As badass as it looks to chill with some brooding rockstars in footie pajamas, this advert does and IS in need of some major copyediting.  “Cute” and “playful” aren’t opposing concepts at all.  Would it be proper to say “this product looks undeniably embarrassing, yet boasts a tacky style”?  Also, I’m really not sure if “playful pajama attitude” suits literally everyone, especially that girl scowling in the corner.  You can’t look that self-serious while modeling Ed Hardy-inspired footie pajamas for adults.  You just can’t.  I do commend the makers of “Jumpin Jammerz” for coaxing Chris Gaines out of retirement though.

New goal in life: see one person actually using this, stare.

Their unique solution to the misplaced cell phone: CHAIN IT TO YOUR FUCKING WRIST WHEREVER YOU GO.  What about when you wash your hands?  Or go to the bathroom?  Or when you have to do ANYTHING with your hands for that matter?  If this doesn’t scream “I don’t have my shit together in the slightest,” I don’t know what does…

You think it might be fun to get drunk and hook up with this girl. IT WON'T BE.

… okay, maybe this.  “Sure to get noticed” is a vague notion and a slippery slope SkyMall.  Lot of things are “sure to get [you] noticed,” like wetting yourself or yelling on the bus.  It’s not clear that’s always a good thing.

Racisty!

I don’t know about you, but I’d feel kind of extremely weird eating off the back of my fake Japanese man servant.  The perfect coffee table to sit around and discuss Pearl Harbor with your militia friends.

This does not in any way look like a comfortable way to sleep.

Daaamn, her posture is so bad.

A fair number of products in SkyMall seem to be designed solely to make breasts jut out.  Suspicious…

This is MY meat.

To take the time to heat up your personalized branding iron in order to sear your initials into your dinner so you can.. see your initials on your dinner before you eat it.  I don’t know whether this is more dumb or sad, which is why I prefer psychological dominance of my food.  No branding necessary, my frozen pizza knows who calls the shots around here.  JSB, that’s who.

This is actually kind of cool, provided you never actually use the words “lip ticklers.”

It’s worth mentioning that half the products in SkyMall are variations of spy technology, hidden cameras, data monitoring, etc.  The other half are mostly to hide your real self from the world or to make your house look like a Thomas Kinkade gallery.  Paranoia, self-loathing, and useless consumption makes your lifestyle healthy!

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Do Attorneys Dream of Electric Beats?

24 Nov

I’ve been seriously addicted to electronic music lately.  I went through a brief stint in college of going out crazy drinking and winding up in clubs, then using pirated DJ software to write increasingly expansive dance tunes the morning after as a sort of hangover remedy.  After that, I retreated into more lo-fi musical stylings for a few years, before simultaneously discovering the digital joy of Kraftwerk and Daft Punk.  From different ends of The Continent, spanning almost 40 years of technology and evolving influence, I found myself immersed in this fascinating alpha and omega of what is possible when you make music in the astral plane.  From there, it was an educational fill-in-the-blanks of what came in between, most notably the Manchester scene from the late 70’s to the early 90’s (as documented in the Tony Wilson pseudo-documentary 24 Hour Party People, which charts the up and downs of Wilson’s Factory Records label).  With their German influences firmly in place – both in the form of nascent electronic music exploration and post-Reich crippling industrial decline – the scrappy Manchs infused a dark, gritty punk sensibility with a burgeoning appreciation of what technological advances in recording and post-production could do.  Once Joy Division – the all-time thought leader in melodic droning – lost their morose lead singer in 1980, the haunted bass and drums became haunted synths, and borrowing some Kraftwerk samples (a new concept at the time), New Order was born.  The aural aesthetic of this time period blows my mind, it’s like time-traveling to a future/past that was too beautiful to ever exist.  Add a few years, and the introduction of ecstasy to the same pale, depressed masses – now raving at Wilson’s “Hacienda” club – and modern dance music as we know it was underway.

"The Hacienda," ground zero for the mainstreamization of electronic music.

From that same time period and relative place, another moribund influence appears that will monopolize the artistic palate of techno: 1982’s Blade Runner.  From Northern England descends Ridley Scott and his Philip K. Dick-based pièce de résistance of futurama.  A few things stand out while watching the director’s cut of this movie now: (a) it’s dense but accessible and therefore highly rewarding; (b) this movie is completely infused in the DNA of cinema, and almost no one has had an original thought about the future on film since (although Blade Runner itself looks to have drawn substantially on Fritz Lang’s impenetrable Metropolis, it is definitely its own thing); (c) the existential implication of humans against similarly capable artificial intelligence/computers/robots was never more deeply or movingly explored.  Daft Punk’s robot versus human imagery is clearly a direct descendant of this motif (is “Human After All” an answer to over-produced early albums or Deckard’s identity quandary?).  Kraftwerk’s 1978 album “The Man-Machine” picked up and ran with this theme a few years earlier, and its iconic cover certainly echoes Metropolis‘s modernist style.  Of course, the touchstone for the sci-fi struggle over what is unique and indelible, if anything, about being human – a collection of organic computational  structures versus artificial ones – dates back to the late 50’s and early 60’s in the Cold War paranoia of The Twilight Zone and P.K. Dick himself*.

It's hard to imagine a time before we thought the movie future would look like this, probably because few of us lived in a world where that was not the case.

If Kraftwerk’s homemade vacuum-tube synths and sparsely inhuman Bloc sound and outfits describe the skeleton of what was to come, Daft Punk, with their endlessly palatable repetition and penchant for Tron-like graphics and permanent robot costumes,  were the fruition of what’s possible on a commercial, multinational scale.  Both also prove that the best electronic music comes with a healthy dose of avante garde style.  Not surprisingly, Daft Punk is doing the soundtrack for (and “starring” in) the perhaps horrible, perhaps interesting rehash of Tron, and is now featured in their own adaption of the Guitar Hero franchise, something called “DJ Hero,” that uses two fake turntables for controllers, and was well-received enough that Activision was willing to invest in a sequel.

Kraftwerk style, circa back in the day.

Daft Punk style, circa now-ish.

So if Disney movies and blockbuster rhythm video games are now on the table, who’s making music that still warrants forty consecutive listens?  More Europeans, that’s who!  Right now I can’t stop listening to Miike Snow and Mark Ronson and his Biz Int’l*.  Both of these projects benefit from the musical genius and chameleonic voice of American hipster Andrew Wyatt, who is the lead singer/songwriter for the Miichael Snö and a frequent collaborator of Ronson’s, most notably on the raise-the-dead catchy “Somebody to Love Me” (along with full-time eccentric and face tattoo-haver Boy George).  Unlike most American artists working in this genre who have mysteriously eschewed nuanced hooks in favor of harshness or pure intensity, Wyatt and his Euro cohorts have a gift for fusing traditional music elements like piano and banjo with brain-melting electronic sounds, creating surreal, unreal, 4 dimensional*, textured earscapes*.  I’m sure Mr. Wyatt et al.’s work is well-complimented by psychedelic drugs, but they nearly make them beside the point.  It’s not quite clear to me what trust fund baby Mark Ronson’s exact gift is – be it networking, or being a super cool dude super cool people want to party with, or just rocking a crazy blond pompadour, or what – but his new album is straight stupid with relentless electro-driven hits, and each song features a minimum of three additional parenthetical guest artists.  Ronson is an especially delightful throwback to The Hacienda scene, sounding frequently like a mash-up between Eurotrash DJ’s, hyper-literate rappers, and The Smiths, the lattermost being the one band Tony Wilson regrets not signing to Factory Records.  I’m holding my breath for Ronson to charm Morrissey out of whatever self-imposed reclusion he is no doubt currently in, and offer him a guest spot in a parenthetical on his next album.  Honorable mention on this note must also be given to Miike Snow’s “Burial,” a song which is such a fantastic piece of poetic dance-mope that it could make Old Man Morrissey implode with misery-envy.

Andrew Wyatt, the new voice making robots rock in the plastic jungle.

Perhaps I find this music so entrancing because there is no IRL limitation to the sound dynamics and the images they conjure in my head.  Or maybe it’s because electronic music always feels like a projection of the zeitgeist’s conception of the future, and regardless of dystopian themes or alienation lyrics,  has some sort of lost optimism about it, a snapshot of a place that’s unattainable, beautiful, and will never exist.  The dichotomy of the ideal and the correspondingly impossible, as the ancient Greeks and Mad Men viewers both know (see etymology of the word “Utopia,” elucidated equally well in either Plato’s Republic or Don Draper’s Kodak Carousel pitch), is painfully lovely.  Also, as an intellectual property lawyer who is taking his first class in computer programming, it’s transcendent to be working in all this mundanity and then realize what is possible with the ultimate end result.  How you get from .txt files filled with numbers and brackets to “Silvia,” “You Gave Me Nothing,” “Harder Better Faster Stronger,” or “Blue Monday” is beyond me, but it’s an amazing concept.

There is probably the fantasy factor too.  Being a DJ (like a real DJ that makes music, not the slash “club promoter” type) seems like the coolest lifestyle ever ever ever.

*To be fair, the origin of this thematic device probably has direct roots to Shelley’s organic-yet-artificial creation in Frankenstein.

*I’ve also been listening to a lot of We Were Promised Jetpacks, but despite their futuristic-sounding name, they’re pretty much a traditional, albeit good, indie rock band.

*Height, width, depth, and awesomeness.

*New word, copyright me, right now.  Hey, Sarah Palin Shakespeare does it.

Bienvenue

22 Nov

Blogging is the most self-indulgent thing a person can do, ergo, I thought I’d try it.